If you’ve ever fantasized about a rustic country wedding inside an historic barn, with mason jar lights, a barnwood bar — and cows photo-bombing the bride and groom, then North River Adventures is your dream destination.

“We’ve got a little bit of everything to give the experience,” says Warren County Farm Bureau member Max Steigleder, owner of North River Adventures in Carlisle, a few miles southeast of Des Moines.

The Steigleder family launched their agritourism business in 2012, after renovating a 1930s-era dairy barn and planting their first corn maze.

Today, North River Adventures attracts up to 600 visitors on gorgeous fall weekends, inviting local families to play, explore, relax and reconnect on the farm.

The Steigleders also grow corn and soybeans, in addition to raising a few cattle for visitors to see. Steigleder’s son Jason lives on the farm with his young family, and his other son Jordan coordinates the party barn business.

Steigleder says his family decided to open their farm to visitors as a way to earn a little extra income. They also get to work together as a family on a fun, seasonal side project during the typically stressful harvest season.

“It’s something different. You know, farming isn’t always the most fun thing,” Steigleder says. “So when you are around people, and we get people of all ages, they are out here having fun. They aren’t usually around agriculture at all. So it’s just a whole different deal.” 

"I was wondering if this would be just a fad and maybe die out, but it doesn't seem to be. It seems like a lot of couples today want to have a barn wedding.
Max Steigleder, Warren County Farm Bureau member and owner of North River Adventures in Carlisle.

The Steigleders, long-time farmers in the area, decided to purchase the farm that’s now home to North River Adventures about 10 years ago, in part because of its scenic location along the river, Steigleder says.

Steigleder also owns and operates a construction business, so the family’s first big project on the farm was to renovate the historic dairy barn.

They straightened the leaning barn and replaced the termite-damaged siding and floors. They added a commercial kitchen to serve fall treats and a patio for visitors to unwind and watch the cows.

Each spring, the Steigleders plant a corn maze with help from an out-of-state agritourism company that specializes in using GPS to create unique mazes.

The party barn rentals, to the family’s surprise, spun off as another side business when people kept asking if they could rent the barn for parties and weddings.

Now, the North River Adventures’ party barn is booked solid in the spring and fall with weddings.

“I was wondering if this would be just a fad and maybe it would die out, but it doesn’t seem to be,” Steigleder says. “It seems like a lot of couples today want to have a barn wedding.”

Steigleder says his family strives to provide an authentic barn wedding experience.

The upstairs hayloft remains uninsulated, revealing the exposed wood beams and columns, with white lights strung from the rafters.

A corner bar is made from old barnwood, and an outside patio offers a perfect spot for photos — with the cows as a backdrop.

In fact, when there’s a break in the music and conversation, you can hear the cows mooing. “Oh, people love it,” Steigleder says.

However, the fall wedding and corn maze season coincides with the family's busy harvest season.

“We spread the work over different family members,” Steigleder says. “It’s definitely different than what we normally do, but it’s still fun. And we don’t need another job,” he adds with a laugh.

Plan a visit

North River Ag Adventures is open for the season from Oct. 7 to Nov. 7. In addition to the 6-acre corn maze, the agritourism destination also offers a hay bale maze and soybean maze for younger kids, a jumping pillow, farm games, and pumpkins and mums for sale.

For more information, including directions and how to book the party barn, visit www.northrivercornmaze.com or call 515-729-8349. You can also follow North River Adventures on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Northrivercornmaze/ for updates on special events and hours.